The Solution to Fake News is Within Our Grasp

Note: this post first appeared earlier this month as a guest opinion column on What’s New in Publishing Column

In the closing days of 2018, New York Magazine published an article on its Web site entitled How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually. This article isa must-read for anyone involved in digital advertising.

In case you were wondering, I agree with everything the writer, Max Read, has to say in the article, which is a good summary of the latest reasons why digital advertising is abig black hole which has been sucking an incredible amount of money out of advertising budgets around the world every single day for years.

In fact, this Black Hole Effect is so pervasive, so long-standing, and so important, we warned our newsletter readers years ago about the high level of fake in digital advertising metrics:

And, I decided to stop publishing the digital marketing newsletter because, frankly, I just could not stand to keep writing about digital advertising when so much of it was fake, and so many companies are obsessed with the idea of invading their customers’privacy in order to make money. These days when we do talk about what’s real and worthwhile in digital marketing (and there is some of this, but not enough), we do so in the Digital Publishing Report.

So, yes. I agree with Read: there is a lot that is fake on the Internet and in digital advertising. Especially troubling to publishers and advertisers alike should be the absolute reality the majority of the metrics are faked. So much so companies spending their money on digital advertising would do better opening their windows and shoveling their cash down onto people passing by. Throw a few ad flyers into the money mix and the response rates will be higher than anything really happening out there on the Web.

What I do not agree with in Read’s article, though, is his conclusion: “Years of metrics driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online—to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort—than it does to be real. Fixing that would require cultural and political reform in Silicon Valley and around the world, but it’s our only choice. Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot Internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.”

The fix, my friends, lies not in the stars or in cultural and political reform, but in ourselves, Ourselves, as in the publishing community as a whole.

As Helena says in All’s Well That Ends Well, “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie…” In this case, the group implied in the “our” is the worldwide publishing industry. We need to do our jobs and protect our content. Curated content researched, written, and edited by human beings who know what they are doing and are good at their jobs is the only real fix to the pervasive and expensive fakeness of the Internet.

Repeat that last sentence over and over as long as you need to and chant it at staff meetings. In fact, shout it from the rooftops: carefully curated content published by trusted sources is the only way to make the Internet more real. It will never be totally real, but expecting anyone in Silicon Valley to abandon the pursuit of endless profit is a totally unrealistic notion. The place is full of billionaires who care no more about reality and truth than they do about paying a fair amount of taxes on the money they and their companies earn.

To be crystal clear, there is no reason, legal or otherwise, for Googleand Facebook to care more about making digital advertising real. Driving the bots away does not make them any money, and reality is not a concept they like or encourage very much.

One thing that would help publishers in this quest is to join in the efforts of organizations such as the Alliance for Audited Media ( There is absolutely no reason why digital advertising cannot be audited in the same way print advertising has been audited for decades and more. Audited metrics put forth by established publishers with a trusted brand message will go a long way toward makingdigital advertising fraud less profitable.

Another thing publishers can, and should, do is stop giving away their content to “blood sucking” companies like Google and Facebook and insist these companies be classified as publishing companies. Publishers have been grousing about these vampire organizations for years (see: for example. I see some signs publishers are at least looking around for a few good stakes to drive into the heart of the villains (, but it is way past time for a full-on assault.

The value in insisting these companies be declared, legally, publishing companies andnot technology companies (as they will insist and will keep insisting) is doing so makes them liable to the same legal sanctions other publishers deal with on a daily basis. One of these legal niceties is copyright.

Another is protecting people’s privacy; Google and Facebook et al make a lot of money from selling personal information and existing legal liabilities are no more than the sting of a mosquito to a very big, very nasty behemoth (

Yet another is the full range of legal liability related to making up stuff about people and making money from it ( “Nine Entertainment Co chairman Peter Costello has dismissed Facebook’s plans to launch fact-checking in Australia and says regulators should make digital giants liable for fake news and defamatory content hosted on their platforms.”

Costello is completely correct, but regulators around the world, but especially in the United States, will not take action without the publishing industry making this a lobbying priority for 2019 and beyond. Nor will depending on tech giants to change their ways benefit the worldwide publishing industry or its readership. The fix we seek, and deserve, must begin and continue from within our industry.

Celebrate Museum Day: Get Free Tickets to Visit a Museum Saturday, September 22, 2018

museum day 2018

Museum Day is a wonderful annual program run by the Smithsonian Institution in the United States. Museum Day is a one-day event in which participating museums and cultural institutions across the United States provide free entry to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket. Participants may download one ticket per e-mail address. The ticket provides free general admission on Saturday, September 22, 2018, for two people.

Here is the link to find out more, select a museum, and create the ticket: Visitors to the page can search for a museum by location or by subject. More than 1,250 museums participate in the event. Participating is free, it is easy, and the Smithsonian does not bombard people who sign up with spam or sell the captured information (name and e-mail address) information. Spread the word!

By the way, a museum does not have to be a Smithsonian Affiliate to participate in the Museum Day program. The museum does have to be located in the United States. Here is the link to learn more and register a museum:

Graphic Arts Industry-Related Museums

Of course, there are many different kinds of museums participating; but a quick search for museums related to printing turned up more than 100! A search for museums related to the graphic arts and design turned up hundreds more.

Here are only a few of the many museums, large and small, related to printing, the graphic arts, and design participating in Museum Day 2018:

  • The American Bookbinders Museum (San Francisco, California);
  • The Cooper Hewitt Museum (New York, New York);
  • The George Eastman Museum (Rochester, New York);
  • The International Printing Museum (Carson, California);
  • The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind (Louisville, Kentucky);
  • The Museum of Arts and Design (New York, New York);
  • The Museum of Craft and Design (San Francisco, California);
  • The Museum of Printing (Haverhill, Massachusetts); and
  • The National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC).

Please note, the Print Center in Philadelphia is also participating in the program, but this particular museum does not charge admission at all. In fact, many of the printing and design museums do not charge admission and yet participate in order to boost their visibility. So, go! Take a friend!

And, please spread the word to managers of industry related museums not yet participating in the annual program. Participating is free and an excellent way to get attention, visitors, and (potentially) donations.

Please share a link to this page and to the Smithsonian Museum Day information far and wide. Let’s fill up our country’s museums on Saturday, September 22, 2018!